6 Our Golden Age: Podcasts

Pod people! Lend me your ears!

Ours is a golden age.

I know. It’s hard to believe. We have orange goblins and secret policemen and climate cooks and kooks. Bear with me.

I listened to the BBC World Service on shortwave radio in Dar es Salaam in 1990. The radio ran, I drew, and I thought received pronunciation was normal. In the 90s and 00s radio and TV died. Guggle and Facetube started killing journalism and other stuff. And podcasts appeared.

Wikipedia, too. The encyclopaedia of turgid prose:

“A podcast is an episodic series of digital audio files which a user can subscribe to so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user’s own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.”

Wow. Read it again. Out loud. The mind-numbing horror of that sentence, ponderous as a landwhale.

Now, I hear my Straw Golem say, “Luka, are you serious? This is a golden age because we have podcasts?”

And I answer, “Yes, indeed. They are a symptom thereof.”

Podcasts are just radio shows you can download. It’s basically the same thing as an audiobook. Recordings of humans talking! That sounds lame, but it isn’t. Together with smartphones and headphones something new has happened: my physical activity has been liberated from boredom.

I hated running to the rhythm of my gasps. Jogging with heavy metal in my ears never felt safe. And both bored me. Take in the beautiful relaxing chirping birds, they said. I did. In about a minute. Then I had 59 more minutes of jealously listening to lazy-ass birds sitting in cozy-cute nests while I pounded gravel.

Doing dishes or digging ditches. Cutting carrots or scrubbing sinks. I’ve listened to everything from Debt: The First 5000 Years to 179 episodes of The History of Rome to the ongoing Heavy Metal Historian. I just need to get a decent waterproof earbud-player combo going and I’ll really be set.

Everybody should be this lucky, I just wish we had a better name for this phenomenon*. Still. Go listen to some. Spoken words will set you free.

So you want podcasts?

1. I assume you have an internet connection, something that plays mp3s and headphones.

2. Do not use Apple’s app. It is the pits.

3. Get a decent app. I use Overcast. I hear Pocket Casts is good on Android.**

4. Find stuff to listen to. You can search for podcasts inside the apps. That’s enough to start you off.***

What’re you waiting for? Go! Listen! Learn! Live!


*Podcast is such a nightmarishly oxymoronic portmanteau of horse manure. Nearly as beautiful as that wikipedia prose. It’s an “iPod broadcast”, which misses all the use cases, all the cool technologies, and still reads like a corporate endorsement. I suggest my Slovenian neologism: “stročnik“. It’s as meaningless, but funnier.

**Or Maybe Castro. Even Spotify or Deezer have podcasts. Stitcher and Soundcloud, too. Yes, even iTunes. But iTunes. Yuck.

***But you can also find whole books on Open Culture (http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks) and Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:The_Audio_Books_Project). And yeah, there is the most expensive option: Audible. You’ll hear ads for it, don’t worry. Damn, but they spend a lot on ads.